Each crop of New Faces at Montreal’s Just For Laughs is special and unique.
John Heffron, who hosted New Faces Group 1 on Wednesday night, told the audience that all of the big-name comedians you’d see at the festival’s Galas started out years earlier as new faces. That might not be entirely true in terms of this particular festival, but it is nevertheless accurate to point out that all comedians start at the lower rungs of the comedy ladder and climb their way up it. Performing at New Faces represents a landmark accomplishment along that climb. Whether it’s a plateau, a peak or just another step along the way is up to the comedians, the industry, hard work, determination, sometimes just plain luck and a little bit of magical timing.
“Suddenly I feel like their dad. Because I don’t have any kids,” Heffron said. Heffron, a past Last Comic Standing winner, turns 44 today, which he calculated would have him moving back in with any future kids he had at this point, just as they were old enough to move out of his home. Heffron’s wheelhouse isn’t so much father figure, though, as much as it is older brother, giving advice to the young guys in his audience on how to deal with their girlfriends and future wives. “Pay attention to what older guys are bitching about, because you will one day age into our situation.” That’s solid advice for these New Faces, too.
Especially when multiple New Faces have the same premise or bad habit of peeing in their khakis, a bit Heffron chose to explore in his opening warm-up. Who knew that was such a hot topic!
Hampton Yount. Yount, a tall, lanky L.A. comic via D.C., came out of the gate blazing, targeting the sing-songy and cliche introductions to hard news stories from the soft local TV anchors in Los Angeles. He also broke the fourth wall, telling the crowd: “My manager told me to talk about myself. I like to get high and write jokes. Here’s some!” Yount astutely noted the fine line between nationalistic pride and straight-up racism that must have fueled the Olympics since the beginning, and even though it’s easy to score points with a crowd by calling Hitler a dick, Yount had to work to get there. And then there’s a one-liner like “Do you guys have 9/11 up here?” to break the tension once more. He closed with his online dating joke that you may have seen this summer on Last Comic Standing’s top jokes.
John McKeever. McKeever was among several comedians who asked “how you guys doing?” or some variation thereof to start their sets, which as Roseanne will yell at you on national TV, is unnecessary and time-wasting. But he quickly endeared himself with the French Canadians and Americans in the crowd by following that with “Bonjourno.” He acknowledged that having an honest marriage sucks, especially when your wife likes rugged Aussies, and you’re more of an American straight guy gay. What’s that, exactly? “I don’t want to have sex with guys but my Internet history’s a little weird.” Other amusing observations included a weird thing he said while drunk and broke, and an astute answer from his friend to the question of whether you’d be deaf or blind. “Can you hear tits?” Fair enough. Score one for the deaf.
Nore Davis. Plenty of comedians want to show off how many jokes they can tell in a few minutes. Davis chose to stick to one story, but made it count since his story was about his sister, who he called his sister-bro growing up, and now calls his brother. Yes. Davis has a transgendered sibling. “It’s like the restaurant got your order wrong for life!” he explained. “I ordered sausage, not fish!” Adding: “I have to support my brother, because the customer is always right.” He jokingly compared his less sensitive grandmother to “old people who never update their software.” Think about as you read this on whatever device you’re using.
Brad Wenzel. Wenzel was this group’s second tall, lanky guy of the evening — is tall and lanky the new short and bearded in New Faces trendspotting? Wenzel is very much about the joke writing. So if you need a unique band name, he’s your guy. Wenzel also noticed the weird flaw in the most recent Superman movie that I noticed, only he explored that onstage while I only kept the thought to myself. Why would young Clark Kent be running around with a cape, anyhow? As for his own flannel shirt, Wenzel had a quick comeback for anyone who says, “Brad, the 90s called.” “I know, they don’t text.”
Grant Lyon. Lyon said he’s been enjoying Canada’s “fancy” beers, which is much different from his 68-year-old father who has never drank alcohol. It makes his dad amusingly naive at times, even still. Perhaps it’s also because his family is “super religious,” enough that his mother believes in Rapture date predictions. That’s a couple of awkward phone calls on the day before and day after those End of the World dates on the calendar. Upon learning that newspapers charge you to run an obituary, he’s now willing to pay to run fake obits. He worries about when he’s old, if he’ll be as stuck in an opinion as today’s elderly might be toward gay marriage. His closing bit about anti-abortion billboards and the lack of pro-choice counterparts suffered slightly from word choice in the delivery. Perhaps an audible abortion snuck in there?!
Jen D’Angelo. D’Angelo knows she looks like a babysitter. And she admits attending Christian school. It’s not what you’re picturing in a stand-up comic, is it? Wait. What are you picturing? Because she also explained: “You can probably tell from my posture that in also ashamed of my body.” She uses her Christian upbringing to wonder about other firsts in human history never explained by the Bible. You know. Like the first poop. Or first sneeze. How did humans figure out what was going on there, exactly? There’s fodder there worth exploring. More so than her so-called porn-clearing invention. Somewhere in between those two, she also should invent something that proves to her father that her emails are not spam.
Jack Robichaud. He doesn’t pronounce it the French way, if you thought that. Some people don’t even want to try to pronounce Robichaud. But it’s either dumb luck or a written joke that allowed a telemarketer to come calling for Mr. Rib Sauce. Is that him? “It is now!” He’s got a relatable bit about how his dad doesn’t respond well to “I love you” coming from his son. And an interesting solution to making an accidental erection in a job interview work in his favor. Unfortunate that he also stuck to the other joke about peeing in his khakis, though. Change that up once the host already covers it!
Randy Liedtke. I thoroughly enjoyed Liedtke’s over-the-top-committed audition on Last Comic this summer, so his energy came across surprisingly low-key last night in comparison. At 30, he noted: “I’m finally the age everybody guessed I was.” He reacted even better to early feedback coming out of his microphone. “Is it my beard that’s doing that?” Liedtke wants to improve Yelp since we’ve done gone and ruined it for everything but basic information. He’s also got some clever business ideas based on their names alone. And his closing bit about his girlfriend may or may not be true. Does it matter, as long as you laughed?
Kate Berlant. Berlant brings an undeniably unique energy to the stage that sets her apart from everyone else in her group. Her stand-up slips in and out of characters. A non sequitur here. A fully realized performance piece there. You never know what’s coming next. Does she? “People are just problems with faces,” she said, then told us she thought of that just then.
When she jokes about being locked into a terror cycle that’s marketable, she’s not far off from the truth. I just hope the terror is only imagined. Because there’s a lot to market here.
Alingon Mitra. Mitra has been cruising through the Last Comic Comeback competition so far.
Why he chose to spend the first half of his set examining Katy Perry lyrics is something he’ll have to explain some other Friday night. A lack of a segue only helped him shift course with a few jokes about how the new Pope seems so less Roman Catholic than we’re all used to. And a joke he told in his first Last Comic audition is made better with an extended reference and callback to Michael Sam and his college football teammates.